On Tuesday, the House is expected to take up a bill that would allow same-sex marriage. House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence), who is gay, has pledged to get the bill passed in that chamber early in the session. Then, it moves over to the Senate, where it's course if far less certain.
And that's where it gets interesting for residents of East Greenwich, because its two senators – Sen. Dawson Hodgson (R-Dist. 35) and Sen. Leo Raptakis (D-Dist. 33) – are likely to have large roles in the debate.
EG's state representative, Anthony Giarrusso (R-Dist. 30), opposes same-sex marriage.
As Edward Fitzpatrick of the Providence Journal reported Sunday, Hodgson is a Republican champion of marriage equality in the Senate.
“I was raised to believe that every American is equal under the Constitution and every human is equal under God,” he told Fitzpatrick. “Marriage is a collection of rights, benefits and privileges, and when the government confers those rights on any two individuals, they have to be available to any two individuals under the law.”
Meanwhile, Raptakis is opposed to gay marriage, as is the president of the Senate, Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13). Paiva Weed named Raptakis to a seat on the Judiciary Committee, where the bill will be heard.
"I believe in a traditional marriage between a man and a woman," said Raptakis in an interview Sunday. "That's my personal opinion."
That said, the Coventry resident said he would have "no problem if the bill is amended to allow for a voter referendum." He noted that other issues were handled that way, including casino gambling and voting rights for released felons.
Raptakis said even if the House acts quickly on marriage equality, there's no way to know when or if the Senate will act on the legislation. It will be up to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29), who opposes same-sex marriage.
The opposing roles of the two EG senators turn national party stands on their head and, Hodgson told Fitzpatrick, that could make a difference.
“Marriage equality may happen because no Democrat wants to get lectured on civil rights by a Republican,” he said in the article.